Touching design

As a design student, it was impressed upon me the importance of how users intimately interact with a product design. I have never forgotten the handshake, the contact points, and I still use it to decide which things to buy. It’s how I evaluate everything, a benchmark.

I remember how BMW made the interior light fade instead of just switching on or off, and how that made me feel it was somehow of superior quality. How my CD player grabbed my disc solidly and drew it into the slot – how the lid of my cassette player slowly slid open – the sound of a Jaguar car door shutting.

Similarly, I remember so many things that felt lightweight, plasticky and cheap.

I was chatting with a colleague at work about vinyl making a comeback. He said “Why? the sound is terrible, and you get scratches and hiss.” He was genuinely puzzled.

That was when I realised how much tactility we’ve lost – and how that might be something we feel lacking today.

A digital file might sound better, and be conjured up easily on a phone or laptop – but with vinyl there is handling. The design handshake. You get artwork, a card sleeve, the disc itself and the ritual of taking it out, putting it on, and turning it over when the side was played through.

This is common to all audio formats – cassette, CD or 8-Track. You got a “thing”.

Reading a Kindle book is great – cheap and very convenient. But it also lacks that handshake. A book feels, smells and looks better – and an expensive book – a hardback with a dust cover – is a prized possession to be cared for.

I worry about the future in this respect; driverless cars, voice activated audio and video and more besides. If you are not driving the car, how can it thrill?

At one time, people bought a daily newspaper – it  was used as a tablecloth, a napkin, to wrap chips, scrunched up to clean stainless steel and windows, rolled-up to swat flies, stuffed into damp shoes, cut into party decorations, used to draw a coal fire… it was read, the crossword was done, articles clipped out, ads circled, moustaches doodled onto the photographed luminaries. It was laid under carpets and used to fill gaps in window frames.

Today, we read our news online, listen to the radio or watch TV.

I’m no different; I stopped wearing a wristwatch in favour of the smartphone. I put away my cassettes, videos, CDs, DVDs, LPs, 45s, reels, books, magazines… I will ask Google before looking up a dictionary or pull a book from my shelves. I threw out my maps and atlases years ago in favour of my sat nav and google maps.

My TV is too thin to have a decent speaker, and I have lost all concept of quality, accepting whatever my phone or TV gives me. I put up with slow browsers, buffering, Freeview digital “Max Headroom” glitches. This is what I have become.

My pens have dried up, my watches stopped. Nothing ticks, nothing takes time to dry, nothing needs a tactility skill, fingers swipe screens and click mice.

I have playing cards, chess sets, wind-up toys and board games in a sealed box in the cellar. My children play with tech, and buy apps. Will they grow up with no understanding of what a new book feels and smells like? What it’s like to be given a designed product as a gift? Will they know or miss knowing that feeling you get  when you clean the capstan and recording heads, when a tape desk has been demagnetised, when a record has been brushed, when a guitar has been restrung and tuned, when a car was driven with joy and appreciation?

Will they care about design? Will they grow fond of a thing? Will they relate to the ghost in the machine?

I wonder if vinyl’s return reveals an innate need…

 

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Trusting Forward

Times they are a changin’ – so sang Bob Dylan back in 1964, and he’s just won the Nobel Prize for Literature this year (2016), so he’s still valid, and what he sang is still valid too.

The times are indeed still changing. It’s a big change in itself that Bob can win a literature prize when he’s not working in that field.

I suspect that the biggest change is in regard to trust.

When you think about it, trust underpins the majority of changes we all hear about these days.

Labour Party supporters lost trust in their own party and voted in Corbyn. The public lost trust in the Labour Party and voted for other parties instead. The majority of Brits lost trust in membership of the European Union.

People have lost trust in Big Business, Big Pharma, Big Banks. They have also lost trust in politics, religion, economics, sport, climate change, and the media.

Corruption, Fake News, Drugged athletes, VW’s rigged emissions… it’s difficult to find anything we can still trust in.

This idea intrigues me, so I’m thinking it through here on this blog in front of your very eyes.

I was once told that marriage is a relationship based on trust. That it requires a buy-in from both parties, and is based on continuance-without-question. This is close to the work ethic in that you get up and go to work each morning without thinking – it’s automatic, it’s what you do. You do not have to stop and decide to choose to go to work each day. Same thing with marriage – you decided to marry, and don’t need to make that choice every day. Until that trust is broken.

Can trust in work or marriage, once broken, ever be regained? I have heard it said that once trust in a relationship is broken, then a decision is continually made – that there is a choice every morning. You do not automatically assume subconsciously to continue. Broken trust is when that comes to the fore and is considered however fleetingly. Maybe this fades over time? What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Yes, we all know relationships can continue – but the point is that the trust is not there; something has changed. Perhaps more often than not, continuance is because there is no clear alternative, and the choice is forced rather than freely made.

OK. I know what you’re thinking – that relationships have different areas of trust, and my description is too narrow.  You’re right but only to a certain extent; some people don’t trust their partners to drive their car, others don’t trust their significant other with handling the money or children.So we can have working relationships containing distrust, but it seems to me that it works only when the distrust is known to both, and actively managed (not ignored or avoided). That’s the important difference I think.

What can be done when trust is broken?

Well we can vote for change. We can vote against the establishment. We can revolt. We can fight back.

I know that Air B’n’B is all about trust; people are in your home – your private and personal space.  Uber is another new business that is very trusting too.

This is the new trust way.

We always had a social contract, a trust that the taxi driver would take us to our destination. We maybe didn’t have a great level of trust that the fare would be correct or that the taxi would not break the speed limit. But with Uber and Air B’n’B it’s a two-way street in that you can review your experience, and they can review you as a customer.

The result is that service provider and customer behave better, and trust is currency.

Reputation becomes the biggest and most important commodity.

Councils provide housing for people who do not take care of the property. Perhaps if there was a system like the Uber/ Air B’n’B model, reputation would make councils repair and maintain properties better, and tenants would keep their homes better?

Banking and investing have always been about customer reputation – credit scores and ratings – but that is one-sided. We need the banks and financial institutions to care about their own reputations, we need this to be a two-way street to rebuilt trust.

Politics is too far gone. The old party politics system is no longer fit for purpose. Council members, MPs, MEPs and MSPs have never been rated and reviewed on their performance, their delivery of manifesto promises nor even on their attendance/ involvement. There have never been Key Performance Indicators nor targets against which they may be measured. It’s deliberately complicated and opaque.

I can’t think of anything that can’t be improved by changing to a reputation model – including work. I hope this is the future.

 

Petty Crime for the 21st Century

The way we shop has changed – along with the way we steal.

My mother shopped every day, sometimes more than once. She would take her shopping bag and buy just what she needed for the meal or recipe – a couple of slices of this, a few scoops of that. This type of shopping made it difficult to steal because you were served by a counter assistant on a one-to-one basis.

Stealing relied on sleight of hand skills and misdirection. You could ask for something on a high shelf, for example, and while the assistant wasn’t looking, items could be pocketed. You could use an accomplice too – this helps with misdirection, and while there were no CCTV cameras or smart tags, the risk was direct and personal.

I know of people who are nostalgic for such days; they miss the thrill, the adrenaline rush, the risk of shame and humiliation. Even when there was no criminal intent, this was present; the shop assistant knew exactly what you were buying – pornographic material, condoms or ointments for thrush.

Perhaps because of the personal interaction element, the embarrassment factor or the need for privacy, shopping changed, and along with it, the crime.

Supermarkets introduced baskets, trolleys and check-outs. The thief only had to put items in a pocket or otherwise avoid the check-out till. Shopping was much faster and less embarrassing, but so was shop-lifting.

It is possible that the losses, at least to some extent, would be offset by the savings in reduced staffing levels and relying on technology like CCTV.

But people are inventive, and with each new innovation in shopping comes an innovation in crime.

Today, we have the Self-Service-Checkout.

Thieves must be delighted with this – it makes everything so much easier and less risky. If caught, one can simply say it was an innocent error.

George Charles of VoucherCodesPro.co.uk carried out a survey of 2,634 people aged 18 and over about their shopping habits and use of self service checkouts.

About 19 per cent said they stole from Self -Service-Checkouts – and the majority said they stole regularly.

Helen Dickinson, Director General of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said: “Theft from stores pushed the direct cost of retail crime up to £511m last year, 166 per cent higher than five years ago.”

Of course, this generates more vigilance – usually in CCTV at this area, but what if there was a way to go undetected by CCTV?

Well, it seems that there is a way. I was recently told of a popular method to rob a store blind while appearing to do everything properly and honestly.

Here’s how it works:

You do not scan your expensive steak, instead you turn the barcode from the scanner, and weigh it on the scales instead. You select a cheaper item – so instead of paying for steak, you pay for apples or a potato or something about the right weight. This allows you to put the item into the scaled bagging area, where it will be expected.

Nothing looks amiss; on the CCTV, you have scanned everything, and no alarms have been sounded. You pass through the door scanners too – you have a receipt, so you can even return items later. Everything appears above board.

So what can the shops do?

The answer to that might just be from Amazon – the new Amazon Go shops.

This idea seems a way to stop stealing – but on the other hand, it removes ALL the people – these stores do not need the same numbers of CCTV and store security personnel – and no till operators. Even if they are not foolproof (remember with each innovation comes innovation in crime), the saving in not paying staff might make it worth it.

I saw this with Uber recently too – they are having problems with trades unions and worker rights to the extent that they are heading down the driver-less car route.

The summary upshot and bottom line is that – as a result of petty crime over the years, the drive has been away from employees toward technology. The removal of people is what is going on. Less jobs, less face-to-face interaction, less embarrassment, less risk, and fewer thrills. Online shopping, cashless, credit cards and mobile smartphones, have heralded a new future where people are diminished in favour of technology.

I’m not sure I can make sense of this future – fewer jobs for people usually means fewer employed earners that are shoppers. We are being sold a future where we can shop without a queue and get a driver-less taxi, but can that be true? Will this only be for those few with jobs?

And what of those people with no jobs? Will they create an alt-society? Or will they innovate new criminal ways as before?

Only time will tell.

Bereavement and The Work’s Phone

I heard that James had died. It was sudden and unexpected. Everyone in the office was astonished – and then felt sad for his family. His daughter’s wedding day was near.

It had nothing to do with us, but someone at Head Office would have to sort out everything. The company car, mobile phone, clear his desk, do something with his e-mail and hard drive and who-knows-what-else – all would need to be dealt with as soon as possible to allow his family and friends to get on.

It’s not too callous, I hope, but the workload increased, and we were all too busy to dwell on such things.

Time passes quickly, and the company recruited a few new people who had never known James. I thought Alan was one of them, but it turned out that he did know James – and that he had worked at this company with James for years, many years ago.

Alan went through the usual forms and inductions, and was given a company phone, car and a desk with a laptop. Nothing unusual in all of this until last week.

Last week he started receiving weird phone calls from a sobbing woman. After a while he discovered that it was James’s daughter.

The company had given Alan James’s old phone and phone number, and James’s daughter had been regularly calling to hear her dad’s voicemail message – to hear his voice. This was a comfort to her. She’d been talking to him, leaving long and emotional messages about her wedding and then about her pregnancy.

When Alan answered, she got such a fright. She then realised that Alan could hear back her very personal messages – and that she would never again hear her daddy’s voice because Alan had erased the outgoing message with his own.

Of course, Alan, immediately erased all her recordings, and apologised as best he could.

Surely there ought to be some kind of procedure for this sort of thing? Something better than what happened here.

Is it better that Alan knew her, that he knew and worked with James? Or would it have been better had he been a complete new start to the firm?

A modern world brings modern ails.

 

What Is It With Religion Today?

People often say that we should never discuss religion or politics. But I see nothing but religion and politics on social media. So tonight, as I once again cannot sleep, and as yet another live Muslim terror attack appears on my screen, I thought I would try to get a perspective on religion. Sorry it’s not a funny blog post, but I hope it’s not too serious, opinionated or lecturing; it’s just me, as a bloke having a think out loud, really. Hope you like it, or get something from it. Anyway, here goes.

I wanted to know if the UK was religious, and I found the following on-line quotation that sums up all the sites I read:

One single fact can be found in all of the statistics: Britons are mostly non-religious and are increasingly both innocent and ignorant of religion.

(Source)

Numbers are available for this, for example:

Those who do profess religion in the UK are largely inactive.

A 2007 poll commissioned by the British Library found that 50% of religious folk “do not practice religion very much, if at all”, with Christians being the most inactive.

A 2014 poll found similar results, with 50% of British Jews saying that they are not at all religious Muslims were most religious, with only 7% saying they’re not.

(Source)

2011 Census  Adherents %
Christianity  33 200 000 59.3%
No Religion  14 100 000 25.1%
Islam  2 700 000 4.8%
Hinduism  817 000 1.5%
Sikhism  423 000 0.8%
Judaism  263 000 0.5%
Buddhism  248 000 0.4%
Jedi Knights  176 632 0.3%

(Source)

So it seems that Christianity is the biggest, but also pretty inactive, when you add that to those who see themselves as having No Religion (and perhaps Jedi Knights too), then it strongly suggests to me that the UK is overwhelmingly not a religious place.

Islam is the most practised religion, but there are very few Muslims in Britain – just 4.8%, 2.7 million, and of these, (the news media suggests) there are a few extremists – and only some of these are the ones doing the terror attacks. So although the numbers are very small, the impact is very large in terms of media coverage and the effect on us all – in terms of searches and security at airports, fear and suspicion and more.

It seems to be the same in the USA, despite the success of Bible Belt fundamental Christian media, religion in general is in serious decline there too.

Religiosity in the United States is in the midst of what might be called ‘The Great Decline.’ Previous declines in religion pale in comparison. Over the past fifteen years, the drop in religiosity has been twice as great as the decline of the 1960s and 1970s.

Last year brought a continuation of this decline. 2013 was a new low for the level of religiosity in the country.

(Source)

The Source has a very good graph of 61 years of decline in religiosity for you to check out if you feel like it.

I looked around various search engine results, changed the search wording a bit, and it seems plain now to me that religion has been dying for decades in the UK, the USA and Europe. That is the trend.

It can be taken as the trend for the “West” or the “Developed” nations or “First world”. I needed to find some information about what’s happening everywhere else.

How  do things stand across the world?

Religion Adherents Percentage
Christianity 2.2 billion 31.50%
Islam 1.6 billion 22.32%
Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist ≤1.1 billion 15.35%
Hinduism 1 billion 13.95%
Chinese traditional religion 394 million 5.50%
Buddhism 376 million 5.25%
Ethnic religions excluding some in separate categories 300 million 4.19%
African traditional religions 100 million 1.40%
Sikhism 23 million 0.32%

OK, now this shows that all the Catholic and Protestant Christian faiths when taken all together, beat Islam. But it could be that many may be inactive – in the same way that I found in the UK study earlier.

And of course, religion, except Islam and a few others, is in decline – so at the present time the world is mostly Christian/ No religion and Islam.

The next question is – what about the future?

…the total number of religiously unaffiliated people (which includes atheists, agnostics and those who say they have no particular religion on censuses and surveys) is expected to rise, from 1.1 billion in 2010 to 1.2 billion in 2050. But this growth is projected to occur at the same time that other religious groups – and the global population overall – are growing faster.

(source)

A Daily Mail / New Scientist article suggests that affluence makes the elite, rich switch to a slower lifestyle, having fewer children and having them later in life too – putting them at risk evolutionarily when compared with the live-fast, die-young, poor – and this, they suggest, is why moralising religions were devised – to level the playing field.

It seems then that historically, the most religious countries have been the most primitive or undeveloped economically, and as this changes, their people have moved away from religion. The question is whether that will still be the case for the third world.

However, recent studies indicate that Hindus and Muslims are not following that route, and seem to hold onto their religions despite development.

This suggests that the future will be polarised between a growing Muslim population across the world, and a non religious/inert Christianity.

This has economic impact because Islam forbids banks to charge interest under Sharia law. So banks make money by lending money to business and taking a share of the profits.

Now, this may seem like a great idea because the banks share the risk – but it also means that banks would evaluate business more stringently, and lend much less, creating a stagnant economic model.

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There is another consideration here too – that of culture. It is rarely mentioned, but people in the UK are culturally Christian. God is on the money along with the Queen – who is head of the Church of England and Defender of The Faith. Christmas and Easter are celebrated, and people marry in church. Children learn about Noah’s Ark, the Nativity, and other Bible Stories. The UK has cathedrals and a long history of religious wars, mainly between Catholic Christians and Protestants – but also the Crusades against Islam. The Industrial Revolution was the result of a strange combination of the Enlightenment and something called the Protestant Work Ethic.

So while there may be a decline in Christianity as a religion, as a culture, it seems more robust. This may be where Muslims and Christians clash the most just now in the UK. However, as the table of numbers showed, they are far too small a population to be a real concern regarding dominance in terms of religion or of culture.

Globally is a different case. There are terrorist groups, such as Islamic State, who seem to have real issues with people who do not follow their particular flavour of Islam. The extremists tend to target other Muslims, but they are better known for those occasions when they attack non-Muslims, or when they attack “the West”.

At one time, it would have been thought that prosperity for middle eastern countries would solve the problems, but as oil has enriched some of these countries, matters have got worse instead of better, and as I just found out, Islam seems to buck the trend for religious adherence falling away as people get affluent.

My little trip round the internet has been more interesting than worrying. Donald Trump’s calls for a ban on Muslims being allowed into the USA – or racists in the UK voting for Brexit in order to control Muslim entry seem more about fears of losing cultural identity than stopping terrorism.

The number of suicidal western-hating Muslim terrorists is too small for any country to manage an effective pre-emption or defence strategy; you cannot legislate for random acts by a few crazy people.

That’s a rubbish conclusion, isn’t it? We cannot do anything. And it’s annoying to me that these few idiots can have such a disproportionate effect. Sometimes I wonder if the real aim of the terrorists is to get us spending resources on security and making everyone’s lives that bit more of a drag.

The politicians seem to feel the need to show voters that this is serious, and that we need to have vigilance and security measures that put our basic freedoms at risk.

I suppose we can share intelligence, have secret services monitor social media and generally keep an eye on who’s buying bombs and plane tickets. But is it worth losing freedoms and privacy rights? Is it worth xrays and removing shoes and belts in airports?

There are other, less obvious, ways to undermine Islamic terrorism, the developed world needs to switch away from oil toward renewables, to take a different view on recreational drugs, to fundamentally change the banking and investment sector, and to allow China to rise to take over the role of World Police. The end of Pax Britannica led to Pax Americana. I don’t know what to call it when it goes to China!

These measures seem to be what is going on, so I feel somewhat re-assured for the future.

 

 

 

Another Almost Perfect Crime

This is a tale of tragedy. It begins pleasantly, but soon descends into intrigue, crime, betrayal and revenge. And it is all true.

It was back in the early 1980s, John and his pal, Al, decided, on a whim, to dine away a Friday evening at a good Chinese Restaurant on the Southside of the city.

Being a warm summer’s evening, the traffic in Glasgow was as light as the evening. The restaurant was pretty busy, so they were lucky to get a table without a booking. By the time they had ordered, it had filled up.

“Well, hello there chaps!”

John looked up, “Hello there Billy – how’s it going?”

“Not bad, John, not bad.”

“Are you out and about tonight, Billy?” asked Al

“No, no, just staying in tonight; I haven’t got paid yet, but I’m starving, so I thought I’d pop in here and get a cheap take away deal, you know, and watch the telly with my mum.”

“Nope. I won’t hear of it. Not at all; Billy, come and join us – Al shift up!”

And that is what happened. And that is how it all started.

IMG_20160130_203835_Fotor.jpg

The waiter asked if they would like more drinks, and was also given Billy’s food order.

When the food came, they ordered yet more drinks. The alcohol began to take effect, and they relaxed, chatting and laughing through the meal. But Billy was slightly less relaxed because the terms were not made clear at the outset.

“Listen guys, I told you I was strapped for cash, could you lend me a fiver? That should do it; I have enough for the rest, I think…”

“Oh, don’t worry, Billy, mate, we’ll take care of it”, offered Al.

“Now wait a minute”, said John, a thoughtful look on his face, “I have an idea!”

Billy and Al listened to the plan as it unfolded from John’s imagination. It went something like this: Billy would finish at some point, get up and leave. John and Al would stay, maybe have another drink, then get the bill. They would refuse to pay for Billy as he had just sat down with them for a while. Billy would get a free meal!

Well, the three of them were just drunk enough to think this was worth a shot. Billy downed his lager, cast down his napkin, slipped on his jacket and left.

Everything went  according to plan – the waiter was cross, the manager came over. John protested about paying someone else’s bill.

People in nearby tables chimed in – telling the manager that the man had come in afterwards and was not actually with the two gentlemen – who came in for a meal together. The manager was chattering in Chinese to his staff.

“The Police have been Called!” He announced.  The restaurant was in uproar.

“Shame!”

John and Al, kept quiet, and waited for it all to subside. Two policemen arrived at the table.

“These men refuse to pay bill for three covers” explained the manager.

John, Al and most of the restaurant told the story – that these two men came in, got a table together, ordered together, and asked to pay the bill together. They were not refusing to pay for the food and drink consumed. A gentleman came in ordered food and drink, and then left without paying his bill, and there were plenty of witnesses to back up this version of events.

The policemen explained to the manager that John and Al hadn’t broken any law, and that the restaurant could not force someone to pay someone else’s bill.

The restaurant cheered. The Chinese staff were forlorn. John caught Al’s eye, and smiled as they waited for their change and receipt.

Suddenly, the door opened – and in came Billy.

“That’s the man! – That’s him!”

“Sorry, guys, I saw the police car, and I cannot let you get arrested on my behalf!” blurted Billy.

John and Al tried in vain to stop Billy. “Ah there you are! These people tried to make us pay your bill, have you come back to pay…?”

“Look, officer”, Billy kept on, “We cooked up the whole plan to try to get off without paying for me, I’m sorry; it’s not like me. I can pay most of it, and I’m good for the rest next week…”

And so, to the horror of almost everyone (except the Chinese), the game was up, the cat was very much out of the bag, and the truth was out.  The Chinese looked at the police, the police winked at the Chinese.

“As you have returned to deal with the restaurant, we are no longer needed. We’re sure you will come to ‘an agreement’ – good night all”.

The three drunks’ acute embarrassment was soon replaced by horror, as they were escorted from the restaurant, through the kitchen, and out into the dark lane.

There they were held while their shoes and socks were removed by Chinese kitchen staff.

And there they were held while the chef thoroughly beat the soles of their feet using strange Oriental kitchen implements.

They couldn’t walk properly for almost a month afterwards.

 

Why Life Is Good If You’re A Man.

Dear Sir/Madam,
The Knights of The Round Table are now all women.

The age of chivalry is no longer possible for men. All the politeness, the romance, the courtesy, the courtly activities and all modern day equivalents are no longer for us lads.

It’s just the way emancipation and political correctness have worked out over time. Facts are facts.

As a man, I cannot freely hold open a door for a female; it would take gumption to pull off such a socially risky business. The thought of offering to carry bags or parcels for a lady is simply just that – a thought. Of course one would never be so silly as to attempt such a thing.

There is no way I would help a woman on or off a horse, bus, train, steps or whatever – unless they were a well-known and elderly relative, and only if I did it overtly, playing pantomime to the gallery, a sardonic pastiche to the pedestal where women once were so protectively put.

IMG_20150524_155528639_Fotor

Am I bemoaning a loss? Nope. Am I grumbling about cultural emasculation? Not a bit, sir. No, no, and thrice no.

Au contraire; I prefer my metrosexuality, my culturally promoted role of narcissism and selfishness. To be a man today is most excellent – the world insists that I be carefree, stressless, and tensionless, I can grow a fabulous beard, get a manicure, wear a manbag, be a phone fiddler – and yet still do guitar, or football, fishing, or drink beer. Where’s the downside?

On the other hand, my modern wife is getting it all full-on. She’s getting the grief and the guilt trips. I can’t wear a dress, not really, but she can wear the trousers.

She feels compelled to help mothers with wayward toddlers and wonky prams. She offers assistance to women who have a broken down car at the roadside. She feels that she can’t just drive on past; who would help her?

In fact, a few months back she had a puncture, and was changing the wheel herself with the children strapped in the back. The car was parked up on a busy pavement near a school and shops. Lots of people walked to and fro – but only females offered to help.

It is quite a remarkable reversal of culture and customs, and how odd that, back in the day, when it was a “man’s world”, men were required to do a lot more, they were more responsible, and expected to not merely contribute, but to lead.

Women can earn more than their male partners, they can do the same jobs, have the same careers – but the super thing is that they still have to bear the children, and generally they get to do the cooking, cleaning, shopping, meeting school teachers and feel guilty about letting their appearance slip.

There is no way that I would swap gender roles in this day and age. Be a woman? Hell no.

I get BONUS points for helping her about the house. If I do anything with our children, I get praised and applauded. And when I do the attentive chivalrous routine at Valentines or Birthdays, I gain so much karma gold and kudos simply because men are not meant to do anything anymore.

These days, men can stay boys for life. While we no longer refer to this as a “man’s world”, it really is much easier for men now. We can relax and put our feet up to watch women take up all the tasks that once were ours.

On top of their own old ones.

So when letters from the bank begin, “Dear Sir/Madam”, it doesn’t mean Sir OR Madam, it means this new thing, this blend of Sir AND Madam that is the modern female. These letters are for my wife; she does all the banking anyway.